Presentation on theme: "Jim Mike Returns to Rainbow Bridge. In 1909, Ute Mountain Ute Jim Mike was one of two American Indian guides who led the Douglass-Cummings party through."— Presentation transcript:
Jim Mike Returns to Rainbow Bridge
In 1909, Ute Mountain Ute Jim Mike was one of two American Indian guides who led the Douglass-Cummings party through the labyrinth of canyons around Navajo Mountain and, eventually, to Rainbow Bridge. Jim Mike is seated in the front far left.
In 1974, sixty-five years after that historic journey, Jim Mike returned to Rainbow Bridge. This trip was under very different conditions. Instead of riding on horseback in and out of slickrock canyons for four days, he was transported by boat on the newly forming Lake Powell.
Though Jim had made other trips to Rainbow Bridge since 1909, this trip had a very specific purpose: to right an historical wrong. Though both Jim Mike and Paiute Nasja Begay acted as guides for the 1909 expedition, only Nasja Begay had received any official recognition.
In 1927, the National Park Service recognized Nasja Begay as the official guide of the expedition and honored him with a plaque. A group, led by veteran guide and trader John Wetherill, hauled the plaque to Rainbow Bridge on a travois.
According to Jim’s great granddaughter, Mary Jane Yazzie, in the 1960s Clarence Rodgers, a rancher from Blanding, Utah who was a friend of Jim, began a campaign to get Jim Mike the credit he deserved. Clarence contacted a writer for the Denver Post who wrote an article about the Nasja Begay plaque and the omission of Jim Mike. This led to a swell of support and the eventual recognition of Jim Mike’s role by the National Park Service.
So it was under those circumstances that Jim Mike returned to Rainbow Bridge. Jim was a great deal older at this time. Lake Powell had not yet reached full pool, so it was still a long walk to the bridge. Jim sat in his lawn chair and members of his extended family and park staff took turns carrying him up the trail.
Jim and his family were the center of attention during the presentation ceremony. Though his plaque had not been completed at that time, everyone felt that this event honoring Jim should take place as soon as possible. His great granddaughter, also along on this trip, reported that Jim was very happy to finally receive his just recognition.
In addition to receiving proper credit for his role in the expedition, Jim had another slight that he felt should be addressed. Jim had told his family and others that he had never been paid the $50 he had been promised as a guide. This was the amount upon which he had agreed with William Douglass, one of the expedition leaders.
The National Park Service agreed to make up for this oversight. During the ceremony, Park Superintendent Temp Reynolds presented Jim with a fifty dollar bill. He also received a Pendleton blanket. When asked what he thought of the belated fee, he replied, “It should be more.”
This would be Jim Mike’s final trip to Rainbow Bridge. He died just a few years after this visit. Though no one knew exactly how old Jim was, his family stated that he was well over 100. Jim and his family never stopped working to get him the recognition they all felt he deserved. The plaque honoring Jim Mike was installed in the early 1980s. Both he and Nasja Begay share in the story of one of the great exploratory expeditions of the twentieth century.